Branson invests in mobile-payment startup Square

San Francisco-based Square has a new investor who is anything but.

Regina Sinsky
Regina Hope Sinsky writes about startups. She studied journalism at the College of Charleston and spent several years in television writing and production. After moving to the Bay Area she decided all the best stories came from startups, so she jumped into tech writing. Regina specializes in interviews with interesting people doing nonobvious things with technology.
Regina Sinsky
2 min read
Richard Branson CNET.com
Richard Branson, the energetic founder of the Virgin Group, has given an undisclosed sum to mobile payment company Square, which raised $100 million in funding back in June 2011. That round valued Square above $1 billion.

Square's founder Jack Dorsey tweeted this morning that Branson's investment in Square is an example of an "entrepreneur helping entrepreneurs."

"I'm very passionate about helping people start and grow successful businesses, and Square is an incredible technology that inspires and empowers everyone to be an entrepreneur," says Branson in today's press release. Try as she might, this reporter couldn't get an interview with Branson. Sigh.

Square, which competes with PayPal, provides free hardware allowing anyone to accept credit card payments. Square just released a new hands-free version of their mobile wallet Card Case. The new version lets people pay for things in their favorite stores without taking out their phone. The technology tracks the location of mobile phones and opens a mobile tab as people approach a store. Once goods are collected and the person's ID is checked via their photo which shows up on the register (typically an iPad), the tabs close as people leave the store.

Branson is famous for his obsession with technology, so it comes as no surprise that he would want a stake in a payment company that is pushing the limits. Square isn't yet available outside of the United States, so perhaps Branson's investment is a sign Square is about to branch out to the U.K. Square now processes more than $2 billion in payments annually. More than 800,000 merchants now use Square, including Apple, Best Buy, RadioShack, Target and Wal-Mart.